Woolworth’s is a fossil.

John’s Bargain Stores is a fossil.

Oldsmobile is a fossil.

Once upon a time, these brands ruled the marketplace. Now few people under the age of 30 even know what they were.

Some things should never change — like that special look your loved one reserves for you. You hope it’s there forever. Everything else should be open for discussion.

The paradox

The only way to maintain a position in the marketplace is through movement. Growth cannot occur in stasis. Look at a Mercedes Benz from the 1980s and look at one now. If it stayed where it was and the creators didn’t update its style, image and design, it would not have maintained its iconic brand status.

The paradox for any brand is that it can grow only on the basis of a certain permanence. So where does change fit in? How do you fold change into your brand, breathe new life into it and further differentiate it — all without disrupting the brand’s core value?

A new spin on an old idea

Legal Seafoods is a restaurant chain whose roots formed 60 years ago in Inman Square in Cambridge, Mass. One can easily imagine the look and feel of a restaurant of such provenance. But enter Legal Seafoods today and you’d be amazed. IPod stations have replaced the tableside jukeboxes. Servers use PDAs to take orders. When your bill arrives, it’s digital. Payment is handled at the table via credit card. The company’s ads appear on YouTube on a regular basis.

Roger Berkowitz, CEO of Legal Seafood, is the son of the founder. In his words, “If you don’t change, you become obsolete.”

A brand that does not change with the times fossilizes. This is a fact.

Adidas. Volkswagen. Harley Davidson — companies that have nimbly navigated changing times — offer an alternative. They’ve changed without completely losing their identities.

Making it happen in real estate: Start small

To effect change, start plugging into shifts occurring in the social marketplace: lifestyle changes, consumer expectations, technology and competitive positions.

One such plug-in is the buzz around social networks and their potential applications within real estate. When I survey this space, I see potential that has been overlooked. It is the application of the ethos of the social Web — the underlying shift in the marketplace — to traditional offline marketing.

Let’s consider how you might use this insight to keep your brand vital:

Unchanged and unyielding, the Just Sold card could very well be obsolete given the easy access to data consumers now enjoy. So let’s shake up this idea, reinvent a new one, and provide a local real estate brand with a new and daring way to evolve without removing the self-promotional benefits and curiosity satisfying bits of information the old card delivered.

Introducing the “Welcome your new neighbors” card:

Dear John and Jane,

I would like to take a moment to introduce you to your new neighbors, the Smith family: Mike, Leslie and their daughter Tara. They recently purchased the Jones’ home at 125 Taft Street. Mike is a software programmer. Leslie owns her own Web design business. Tara is as cute as 3-year-olds get. She loves to read and tell daddy what to do. They just moved from San Francisco because they love this area and want to build their life here. Stop by and say hello. It will mean a lot to them. — Marc Davison, General Manager, Davison Real Estate

Listing agents, here’s the shake and bake for you:

The “Farewell to great neighbors” card:

Dear Monterey Heights Neighbors,

As you may have noticed, the Jones’ home at 125 Taft has been for sale. Last week we received an offer on the home and yesterday it was accepted. For anyone interested, the final sold info is at www.125taft.com. A new family will be joining us here and bringing their energy to Monterey Heights. The Jones family has long been part of this community, but opportunity has called and their journey through life will take them to new places, new people and new experiences. We wish our clients and friends farewell and best wishes going forward. — Marc Davison, General Manager, Davison Real Estate

Building brand

It’s arguable whether sending sold data in a post card is even a good idea anymore given the volatility of home prices. The last thing an agent needs is having to explain to a seller why their home, identical to one next door that sold five months ago, is worth $20,000 less than the price indicated on they postcard they are holding.

What shouldn’t be argued is how effective brand building is when realized through specific acts and images of simplicity, difference, believability and relevance.

Marc Davison is a founding partner of 1000watt Consulting. He can be reached at marc@1000wattconsulting.com.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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